Cadbury the Butler Q&A


Dear Cadbury,
I am a Butler / House Manager in the USA. Last month I got a new position with a wealthy family in a new mega-home the size of a hotel. The home was recently completed and the Lady of the House was intending to build up staffing slowly “as I see what I need”. There was some staff there who were pulled from the employers’ other homes. I was very excited to start this position and I had full intentions of making this a long-term commitment on my part. I gave up my apartment and pet and relocated. After four days the Lady of the House advised that she did not want such a big staff and apologized and let me go. I am devastated.

Dear GB,
Unfortunately you have been treated quite poorly by this employer or it could be that the fit between you and this employer just was not there. I always recommend that candidates carefully interview their prospective employers during the interview process to learn about their background, their expectations for the service delivery system of the home and learn their willingness to meet regularly to review how things are going. This will help you decide if you are offered the position whether you are comfortable working with the Principal(s) and whether they are willing to work with you to make you successful. At the hiring time, I also recommend a written job offer that spells out a minimum of two weeks severance should the Principals decide to let you go for any reason. Upward and onward!

Since employment is at will in most states in the USA, there is not much you can do about this situation unless you had some form of agreement and/or promises were made and broken. I encourage all private service employees to insist on putting the terms of their employment into a hire offer or letter of agreement. Include things like severance pay upon termination. Most reputable staffing agencies will insist on this as well.

The very best thing you can do is to investigate your future employer to a greater degree than most candidates do. Is there a job description? Have there been others in the job and have they lasted? Be sure to meet the employer before the hire- not just the HR person at the office or some Personal Assistant. There is a huge temptation to take a job because of its title, the wealth of the owners, the opulence of their life style or desperation during a prolonged job search. Taking a job when you have found warning signs may not bring professional happiness and satisfaction, and especially when the situation is fundamentally flawed by poor planning and lack of organization and insensitive employers.
– Cadbury

Dear Cadbury,
I just read the story about the butler who gave up his own home, his pet, and moved for a job that ended abruptly. It is sad that some employers aren’t clear on what they want and in turn disrupt the employee’s life. On the other hand, it is very difficult to understand how it might feel to have staff in your home until you do it. I am sure if the tables were turned, we might feel the same way.

The only solution I have come up with over the years, since no one can control another human being, is to have the new employee keep his home, pets (give to friends temporarily) and car in place. Just pack a suitcase and see how things go for a few months. Then if the job doesn’t work out for any reason, they will always have their home to go back to.

There are three situations in life that can shake you to the core: loss of home, loss of job and loss of loved one. When a live-in job is terminated, you lose two of the three. Be kind to yourself and make sure you keep as much of your foundation intact.
– Cadbury

Dear Cadbury,
Last year I had the opportunity to interview on site for a position in the USA put forward by my London agency. The job description was vague. Compensation offered was low and was to be via the employer’s London office with assistance to be given for legal visa application at some point. I really wanted to get my foot into the USA. I eagerly traveled to the residence and quickly determined that I would have been expected to carry out the following duties
1. Clean the house
2. Cook the meals
3. Take care of the garden
4. Maintain the vehicles
5. Drive the Gentleman to and from work
6. Take care of two dogs and a cat.
7. Do the household accounts
8. Do the household shopping
Now that may seem a lot for one person to take on and when I looked at the accommodation that was offered, I decided that there was too much involved. The living space was in itself adequate but the state of repair was far from satisfactory. There was no furniture in the rooms. The carpets were disgustingly dirty and the tiles in the bathroom were falling off the wall. I do really want to work in the United States and am willing to do pretty much anything to get there but that was a little too much to ask.

I am sure that it is the ideal position for some young ambitious butler, just not this one.
Regards, PKP

Dear PKP,
I am using your note as a message to those professionals who might consider coming to the USA in a sub par position with a shady roundabout compensation arrangement. Please be careful. This is not legal and exposure can result in being barred from reentry to America. It is not possible to get a visa to work legally in the USA whilst you are in this country working. After 911 it has been next to impossible to get a legal visa to work in the USA unless you marry an American, have extraordinary talent, a hotel type sponsor and perhaps a few other specialized situations. Super Butlers don’t count as extraordinary, though they should. In those cases where sponsorship was given and the visas have come through, the wait was 9 months or more-while the professional could not work in the USA. There are not that many patient employers who are willing to wait.

I do recommend that persons seeking entry to the US investigate the Green Card lottery, which awards a certain number of visas on a random basis. I actually know several who have won them, though the process is still tedious even when you win the jackpot.
– Cadbury